The Jazz of Language in Movement by Dustin Pickering

Review of Chuck’s Joy’s Percussive

Turning Point (2017)

Percussion by nature involves intense motion and transition. Chuck Joy in Percussive invites language to imitate the art of the drum. His language follows steady patterns and repetitions of word choice as sounds coalesce to compose poetry that abides by such musical properties. Without irony, Joy’s themes often invoke the sensation of movement. For instance, lines from “Intersection” read

“the whole world buzzing

busy with important missions…” (Page 12)

The structure of language here is bouncy and jarring while the sounds mimic beats in a jazz composition. This poem is apparently about a foreign film with subtitles. The central focus is on several frames in which a cyclist is met with an armored vehicle.

However these poems do not stop at musical aesthetics. They can also reflect wisdom and careful thought. In poems such as “San Antonio” the poet tells us

“life is suffering, no doubt

the absence of desire a blessing

detachment essential, the analytic stance

Dr. Freud meets Mr. Buddha” (page 26)

Here the poet unites Western logic in psychoanalysis with Eastern religious tenets in few words.

The same poem invokes the book’s own aesthetic:

“the words, taps on the drumhead, percussion

Surprise in the line breaks

       Passing, blurred

A view from a train…” (Page 25)

The poem “Physician” stands out because it is about a famous poet, William Carlos Williams, among poems that are mostly personal. The poem sympathizes with Williams as a doctor. The essential reflection is the poet’s doubt about how Williams could enjoy his profession. As a pediatrician, Williams must be in contact with sick children. The phrase “he’s seen it all, Doctor Bill, a grandfather” invokes one’s family duties in comparison to one’s occupation. Perhaps a similar duty resonates across many roles for the famous poet.

Percussive invites readers on many journeys. The sensations of lines as they wrap toward repetition invokes musical quality while themes address life in transition, sometimes through nostalgia. This small chapbook is one you can enjoy, as the author enjoyed poetry “reading in bowling alleys / bookstores, a bar”, in only a short session. Percussive is an exploration of how language might reflect the rhythm and climb of drumbeats as they intone a mysterious journey through life.

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